Your ex has a new girlfriend. She moved into his home last week. You’re livid about the arrangement and call him daily to vent your anger. You’re concerned about the impact she might have on your young children.
Unfortunately, ex-spouses have little control over what their former partners do. Once the divorce settlement is final, partners are free to date and remarry whomever they choose.
The one exception is if the behavior is endangering the well-being of minor-age children. When an ex-spouse is abusing alcohol and drugs, engaging in criminal behavior or acting in a violent or irrational manner, the other parent should talk to an attorney and possibly curtail visitation or require that parental visits be supervised.
But those situations are rare and extreme. Most divorced spouses wisely encourage regular communication between their kids and the other parent via telephone, Skype and frequent visits.
Equally important is parental stability. A divorce upsets both parents’ lives. In a short period of time, they change addresses, schedules and friends. They may suddenly face financial hardships.
When parents are stressed, they have fewer emotional resources to devote to their children. That’s why it’s so important for parents to restabilize as quickly as possible after the divorce.
Ex-spouses can facilitate the process by minimizing conflict with the other parent. They may not be happy about the separation. They may disagree about how to raise the children. They may harbor anger about past hurts. But when the dust is allowed to settle and partners move on with their lives, everyone benefits.
STAYING ON GOOD TERMS WITH YOUR EX
Place the children’s needs first. Ask yourself often, “Are my kids’ lives improved by my behavior?” If not, change your tactics.
Be respectful. You don’t have to like what your partner is doing, but he or she will always be a huge part of your life. Assume the moral high ground and avoid being rude or nasty.
Be pleasant when the children are present. Nothing harms youngsters like parental conflict. If you must disagree, do so in private.
Agree where you can. Don’t fret about issues you can’t control. Focus on a common game plan so you create continuity for the kids.
Meet your commitments. Dependable behavior puts your ex at ease and shows your children you care.
Be cordial to new relationships. Whether you like them or not, they are a part of your children’s lives. Make an effort to get to know them. You’ll have far more impact if you work together as a team than if you remain adversaries.
Attend your child’s activities together. Show up for games, recitals and awards ceremonies. No matter how contentious the breakup, you can be civil for a few hours.
Don’t pump children for information about your ex. They’re entitled to a loving relationship with both their parents. Do your best to make it happen.
Find ways to communicate. Talk in person if you can. Try email or a public venue if you have difficulties staying polite.